RFE rates are still high for H-1B petitions, and processing delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic are making it even harder for employees to get their visas approved to meet their start dates.
Having to answer one or two – and sometimes as much as three – rounds of RFEs have been pushing back employee start dates and hurting the businesses that employ them for years now. This problem has been compounded due to social distancing measures in place at USCIS. If you or your employee or client is filing for H-1B status, avoiding an RFE is more important now than ever. But how?
1. Include a credential evaluation in the initial petition.
It is essential to clearly show USCIS that the H-1B employee has the correct degree in the correct field of the H-1B job, or its clear equivalent in education and work experience in accordance with US educational standards. The only situation in which a credential evaluation would NOT be essential is if the employee holds the required degree (which must be a Bachelor’s or higher) earned from an accredited US college or university, in the EXACT field of the H-1B job. This becomes a problem because employers commonly hire employees with degrees in related fields with work experience directly in the field. These qualified employees need a credential evaluation, even if the degree was earned at an accredited US institution.
If you, or if your employee or client has incomplete college, no college, unaccredited college, or a degree from outside of the United States, a credential evaluation is needed to prevent an RFE triggered by education issues. If you, or if your employee or client has a generalized degree, or a degree in a related field that is not an EXACT match for the H-1B job, a credential evaluation is needed to prevent an RFE triggered by education issues. These evaluations take specific course content and progressive work experience into consideration when writing the credential evaluation to meet the academic requirement, and field specificity requirement.
2. Include an expert opinion letter in the initial petition.
An expert opinion letter that addresses wage level, specialty occupation, and employer-employee relationship issues goes a long way to preventing RFEs triggered by any of these common issues. Remember, when USCIS finds one red flag in a petition, this usually leads to close scrutiny of the entire petition and can lead to highly complex RFEs that are not easily answered.
The key to obtaining an EFFECTIVE expert opinion letter is finding someone to write it who has extensive experience working in the field of the H-1B job, including positions of leadership and authority. Ideally, this expert has made hiring decisions regarding the H-1B position in question, and therefore can lend an opinion about the complexity of the position, and prerequisites for hiring consideration, as well as an authoritative opinion about the nature of the work, wage level considerations, and the industry. USCIS will not consider expert opinion letters from those who have only been instructors in the field. Once you have found your expert, it is on your team to provide them with as much information about the company, the position, visa requirements, and the employee as possible so they can write an impeccable letter specifically applicable to the situation.
3. Proofread for consistent answers and file in order.
Make it easy for the adjudicator to read the petition, include all parts in order, and make sure answers are CONSISTENT across documents. This includes dates, spelling, names and titles. Any inconsistencies across documents will trigger a closer scrutiny of the case, which will likely lead to an RFE. Having an outside party review the petition before submission goes a long way to catching any weak points where additional evidence and documentation is needed, or where the case raises questions that should be answered before it ends up on a USCIS adjudicator’s desk.
At CCI TheDegreePeople.com we work with difficult cases, RFEs, and Denials every year. We know what triggers them; we know how to identify weak spots in petitions, and we know what additional evidence and documentation strengthens those weak spots. Let us review your case for free before you file. Visit www.ccifree.com and we will respond in 4 hours or less.
Sheila Danzig is the director of CCI TheDegreePeople.com. Sheila specializes in overturning RFEs and Denials for work visas.